Under frightening intimidations we saw in the last entry that Satan sometimes attacks God’s people by means of or in connection with physical afflictions. We move on now to other frightening intimidations.
Secondly, Satan often instigates persecution against the people of God. Satan’s hand in the persecutions of God’s people is most clearly brought out in the book of the Revelation. There we find that he is the mastermind behind the persecutions of the church. This persecution can come in many different forms: slander, misrepresentation, the suffering of loss because of our commitment to Christ, harassment, opposition from loved ones and family, being ostracized or even the infliction of physical suffering or death. The bible says, “Yes, and all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”. All of God’s people will suffer persecution in one way or to one degree or another.
Now Satan’s aim in all of our persecutions is to divert us by fear from the path of faith, to cause us to sin and, ultimately, to cause us to apostatize from Christ. Consider the example of the apostle Peter. Peter said, “Lord though all men forsake you, I will never forsake you”. He was full of self-confidence. Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat”. And in just a few days we see the bold, impulsive, self-confident Peter denying Christ with oaths and cursing. Why? He was overcome by a spirit of fear that was instigated by the devil; fear of what might happen to him if he let it be known that he was one of Christ’s disciples. So he denies him three times and swears that he doesn’t even know him.
Peter with all of his natural boldness and self confidence was no match for the devil in his own strength. And that’s why Jesus had warned him about this before it happened. This is why Jesus told him in the garden “to watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation, the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak”. Watch and pray Peter that you enter not into temptation! But, instead, what did Peter do? He slept!! And dear friends, if we don’t watch and pray, if we sleep the sleep of spiritual laziness and self confidence, if we don’t keep up our communion with God in secret prayer and we fail to keep looking to him day by day with a sense of our weakness and our need of his grace to keep us and protect us against the devices of Satan, then just like Peter we’ll be no match for the devil when the time of testing comes and the pressure is on. Peter never imagined in a million years that he could do something so awful as what he did. He never dreamed that he could fall so low as to deny the Savior he loved so dearly. But he did!!! This should serve as a solemn warning to everyone of us. “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation”. It’s interesting that it’s this same apostle Peter who wrote 1 Peter 5:8-9. He knew from painful experience what he was talking about when he wrote these words, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”.
Someone says, “Ah well, you see, Peter fell prey to the devil but he came out of it just fine”. Yes, but it cost him many a bitter tear of repentance. And as one old writer has commented, “There is no necessary connection between entering into temptation and coming out of it. Both Judas and Peter went in, but only one of them returned. Those who go in on a presumption of coming out again, are often fatally mistaken”. So under this heading of frightening intimidations there are not only afflictions. There are also persecutions. And then…
Thirdly, there are accusations. Satan is called in scripture the accuser of the brethren. And he sometimes seeks to intimidate the child of God and to keep him in a state of discouragement and spiritual depression by shooting his fiery darts of accusation at us. He tries to keep us in a state of morbid introspection in which we do nothing but look ourselves and our remaining corruption. Or he keeps us dwelling upon the past with vain regrets; dwelling on something we did in the past that should not have been done and we’re ashamed of. Things that we’ve already confessed to God and repented of but Satan keeps bringing them up and tormenting us with them and we become depressed and miserable and we feel unclean and we feel that our lives are a failure. We begin to doubt whether we are Christians at all. This is precisely what the devil is seeking to do. He wants us to be continually depressed and miserable so that we’re unable to be up and serving Christ with joy and enthusiasm. Then he can say to others, “There’s your typical Christian! ; that’s what Christianity will do for you!” This is one of the wiles of the devil.
How do we ever get into such a condition? It’s because we do nothing but look at ourselves and look at our past and we forget the gospel. We forget to look to Christ. There’s nothing wrong with self examination. Self examination is good and very important. There’s also nothing wrong with looking back at times to our past sins and being humbled by them and grateful for the mercy of God that saved us from them. But self-examination was never meant to be an end in itself. It is a means to the end of humbling us and driving us afresh to Christ and his cleansing blood.
We must never look at our past sins, if we are Christians, in a way that hinders our progress in the present. When you find yourself paralyzed with depression over your past sins what should you do? You must preach the gospel to yourself and run to Christ. Say, “Yes, Satan, it’s true. I’m an awful wretched sinner who deserves nothing but hell. My past is shameful and I’m ashamed of it and there is so much sin that still clings to everything I do. But Christ died for sinners and he is my hope and trust. The more the thought of my sins trouble me and the more I feel my guilt, the faster I’ll run to Him. For God has promised that none who come to Christ will ever be cast out. He has promised that, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. ‘We have an advocate before the Father, Jesus Christ, the perfectly righteous one, and he has made propitiation for our sins’”. Satan wants you to forget these promises. He wants you to forget Christ and to forget the good news of the gospel. He seeks to keep you doing nothing else but looking at yourself and measuring yourself or focusing on your past, living in a perpetual state of fear, depression and misery. Always remember the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin with a positive purpose, in order to lead us to Christ in faith and repentance. Satan accuses us in order to drive us away from Christ and to despair.
There’s one other frightening intimidation by which Satan tempts and troubles God’s people. I may come back to it later since an entire article could be devoted to it. I’m convinced that sometimes he seeks to intimidate and to frighten God’s people by attacking us with evil, bizarre and blasphemous thoughts. He interjects these thoughts and then tempts us to think that because we had such terrible thoughts we’re not truly Christians. Again I may come back to this one later.
But let me leave off now by simply saying that if you’re a child of God I trust this series of posts has served as a sobering reminder that we are in a warfare. The Christian life is a conflict with the flesh, the world and with the powers of darkness. It will be that way to the end. The bible does not teach the type of salvation which says, “Come to Christ, believe in Him, and you’ll never have any more troubles. You’ll float down the road to heaven on flowery beds of ease and everything will be perfectly cozy”. No, it tells us very honestly that upon taking up the cross to follow Jesus we embark upon a course in which we must at all times be sober and vigilant and have a military mindset. It tells us that we have a subtle, active, cruel and powerful adversary who seeks by every means at his disposal to devour us.
Praise God, we also know that Christ, the great captain of our salvation, has come to destroy the works of the devil. We are to know and to firmly believe that if we are in Christ, though we must reckon with our enemy, we are reckoning with an enemy who has already received the fatal blow on Calvary’s cross; an enemy whose tyrannical dominion over us has been broken. He who is with us and in us is greater than he who is in the world. And Christ has promised that nothing shall ever pluck us out of his hand and that in him even the weakest of his saints will ultimately triumph. We must fight the good fight of faith. We must do this actively and deliberately! But we are not left to our own resources in this conflict. Christ is with us and he is working in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.